Maizy Chen’s Last Chance

Maizy Chen's Last Chance cover
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee

By Lisa Yee
Random House, 2022
288 pages

Ages 8-12

Eleven-year-old Maizy Chen travels from Los Angeles with her single mom to spend the summer in Last Chance, Minnesota. They are there to help with the family’s Chinese restaurant, the Golden Palace, because her grandfather is ill. Maizy has only met her Opa and Oma once before; all she really knows is that there is a long-standing tension between them and her mom. Maizy gets to know the quirky regulars at the restaurant, befriends a local boy, Logan, who is white, and deals with snobs and bullies. But the highlight for Maizy is spending time with Opa. In spite of his ailing health he teaches her to play poker and recounts the story of her great-great grandfather, Lucky, who emigrated from China to California in 1853 and eventually ended up in Last Chance. Maizy learns about her family’s history, including the racism and threats of violence her ancestors faced, and their connection to many Chinese immigrant “paper sons” who emigrated after the Chinese Exclusion Act and came through Last Chance because of Lucky’s and his wife, Lulu’s, kindness. When Bud, the seven-foot wooden bear that’s stood outside the restaurant for generations, is stolen, Maizy and Logan set out to solve the mystery, in the process encountering some of the same racism her immigrant ancestors endured. An appealing, humorous story, with a satisfying plot, distinctive setting and memorable characters, bubbles along the surface of this novel that also reveals the history of social injustice toward Chinese Americans that reverberates today.  ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center